Meditation Retreats for Mental Health

Meditation Retreats Really Bad for Mental Health?

Many people have been traveling a long way from their countries to seek meditation retreats for healing their body and mind; for better mental health. Meditation retreats are a kind of mindfulness practice which they believe they can help them let go of negative thoughts, focus much on themselves, and think about what is really important in life.

However, a recent study shows that going on meditation retreats may be bad for participants’ mental health.

An international survey of people who attended residential meditation programs found three in ten suffered “unpleasant” episodes, including feelings of anxiety or fear.

According to University College London (UCL), overall more than a quarter of people who regularly meditate experience such feelings.

On the other hand, this could happen to those who engage deeply in “deconstructive” forms such as Vipassana or Koan meditation, which encourage insight through questioning the permanence of the self and the reality of sensations.

These forms involve in days’ long silent meditation retreats with highly regulated sleep and regiment diet and restricted access to the outside world.

Moreover, Marco Schlosser, the research leader at UCL, said that meditation which ultimately reduces familiar feelings and views into fleeting sensations can engender sudden feelings of danger, particularly among inexperienced meditators.

“Meditation has become quite trendy and an image has been constructed – perhaps explicitly by the mindfulness industry – that its a panacea, but it’s not,” he said.

“It’s benefits may have been exaggerated.

“However, we should be equally cautious not to exaggerate the harms.

“It’s an extremely young field of research.”

Out of the 1,232 people who participated in the survey, 25.6 percent said they had previously encountered “particularly unpleasant” meditation-related experiences.

Men were more likely to suffer these experiences than women, especially those who were non-religious compared to those who were religious.

More importantly, the result shows that those who practiced only deconstructive types of meditation reported an unpleasant experience accounted for more than 29.2 percent, compared to 20.3 percent who only practice in other forms.

“Insight meditation practices often encourage meditators to attune their attention to the impermanent, unsatisfactory, and impersonal nature of thoughts, feelings, and body sensations that arise within the space of awareness,” the study reads.

“Perceiving phenomena that might commonly be conceived of as inherently permanent and separate (e.g., the sense of self) as a vibrating field of fleeting and interpenetrating sensations could, for instance, give rise to a fear of annihilation.”

The new study is originally published in the journal PLOS One.

Finally, meditation retreats are likely practicable to improve your mental health. But, you have to define and control your own engagement. If you want to practice high forms like deconstructive ones, you should consult a meditator.

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